What's a TV Rating and Who Is It Dating? 2012-13 Edition

Categories: 1-Featured,Help,TV Ratings Reference

Written By

September 2nd, 2012

These are  Nielsen US TV universe estimates for the 2012-13 season which are being used effective August 27, 2012.

Nielsen TV ratings are merely percentages of whatever is being measured.  Sometimes it gets confusing because so many different things are measured.

If you see a 3.4 national adults 18-49 rating, that doesn't mean 3.4 million adults 18-49, it just means 3.4 percent of the 126,540,000 adults 18-49 in the United States (down from 127,860,000 last season) who live in a household with a television were watching based on the Nielsen estimates for the 2012-13 television season.

So a 3.4 adults 18-49 rating works out to be around 4.3 million adults 18-49.

Here are some of the ratings slices we frequently post data for and the total size of the populations being measured.

Nielsen Estimates 2012-13 Popluation (Millions) A 1.0 Rating Equals
Households 114.20 1.142 Million
People 2+ 289.42 2.894 Million
Adults 18-49 126.54 1.265 Million
Women 18-49 63.98 639,800
Men 18-49 62.56 625,600
Adults 18-34 67.66 676,600
Women 18-34 33.89 338,900
Men 18-34 33.77 337,700
Adults 25-54 118.70 1.187 Million
Teens 12-17 24.02 240,200
Kids 2-11 39.61 396, 100

The 2012-13 estimates for households, P2+ and adults 18-49 were all down vs. the 2011-12 estimates which were 114.7 million, 289.7 million and 127.86 million respectively.

  • Nick


    Rules of Engagement was withina few episodes of syndication. That’s different.

  • Nick

    @ Bill

    There are no national TV ads I know of priced on the basis of viewers > 54.

    Your daily cable ratings feature demos as high as A35-64.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “Your daily cable ratings feature demos as high as A35-64.”

    I didn’t write that Nielsen didn’t *collect* information on demo groups > 54.

    FWIW, those (and other) news programs are sold/priced based on adults 25-54.

  • Nick

    Oh. Thanks.

  • Shake It Up

    Can’t stand the inaccurate and outdated Nielsen Ratings system.

  • JakeSnake


    Thanks. The way you explained it makes perfect sense. The rating is just the percentage of the entire potential viewers in the entire country, while the share is the percentage of active viewers(I’ll be a nerd here and call them kinetic viewers, lol) at that given time that were actually watching the particular show. Thanks again for the explanation!

    Rating = Potential viewing percentage
    Share = Kinetic viewing percentage

  • Ike

    Kinetic? Heh. I prefer to think of it as the percentage of people who actually have their TV sets on! Simpler, yeah?

  • Teresa Schmid

    So do people over the age of 54 cease to exsist????? I’m not there yet, but it seems like the older audience doesn’t matter!!!!

  • San_Nom

    @Teresa Schmid

    People over 54 certainly matter to pharmaceutical advertisers.

  • Robin

    Just getting this straight since I’m new to it. So Nielsen ratings don’t measure the number of people who may be streaming this online?

  • Dan

    I’ve been trying to find Nielsen’s definition of a viewer. If a show is measured to have a certain rating against a given demo, or a total number of viewers, how long did they have to watch to be counted? Surely a 60-minute show that had a million people each watch for 45 seconds can’t have the same rating as a show that had a million people each watch for 58 minutes.

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